When the weather is fine and the produce is at its peak, chances are you’ll find an outdoor market near you, filled with riotous colors, sounds, and smells, not to mention seven varieties of organically grown lettuce. Outdoor farmers markets have doubled to more than 8,000 venues in the U.S. in the last 10 years. The markets are also attracting a broader group of patrons: those on federal food assistance who qualify for discounts, as well as those willing to pay top dollar for freshly picked huckleberries.
And while sales at these markets have slowed slightly in the last two years, experts say these are signs that the fresh food system is maturing, expanding into new markets like farm-to-school outreach programs. “There are literally thousands of schools that would like to do this,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells The Plate.
But globally, outdoor markets where the farmer is the vendor have been thriving for a long time before we Americans started to rekindle our interest in where food comes from. Markets like these, whether made up of simple blankets spread on the ground or a stall filled with handmade peach bushel baskets arranged just so, bring people of disparate backgrounds together to share something common to us all—food.
But markets are about more than food. They also provide us with a sense of community and commerce in an age of faceless digital interactions, and a place of hope when nothing else is going right (see Rebooting Food and Community in New Orleans After Katrina, Parts One and Two.)
In honor of outdoor markets everywhere, enjoy our You Shot gallery.